The Camden County Police Department, which has claimed credit for improving crime stats, including a drop in homicides, drawing national attention, made its pitch to an international audience Tuesday.
A group of 17 reporters — each based in the United States but working for media outlets in Brazil, Russia, Spain, and other countries — traveled from New York in a charter bus to tour Camden city and talk to police.
That the reporters came to Camden was no accident.
The county police department, which currently patrols the city, receives federal funding for community policing — which officials touted — and the reporters are involved in a State Department program. The Foreign Press Center program allows journalists to view how governmental policies are implemented in U.S. cities.
In Camden, community policing methods have received mixed reviews. Some residents have credited it with making streets safer, while others have chafed at what they perceive as harassment. The number of tickets handed out for several minor offenses has reached a 10-year high.
Tuesday's event, however, was just a pat on the back for the police department.
The reporters talked to the department's advocates, starting with the man on top: Chief Scott Thomson.
"We don't want to be warriors, we want to be guardians," he told them, according to a Tweet from the Foreign Press Center.
The group then traveled to Bonsall Elementary School in Whitman Park, a section of the city particularly beset by violence, where the department showcased its reading program with students.
Camden County officials barred local media from entering the school.
One of the visiting correspondents did, however, talk about why she was drawn to Camden.
Heloisa Villela, a correspondent with the Record television network of Brazil, said she came to learn about how the police department is using surveillance cameras and other technology. Villela, who lives in New York, said her interest was sparked by protests following the Eric Garner case.
"I came to hear about the camera technology and how effective it is," she said. "They talked to us about how it's helped them solve crimes."
More than 100 cameras keep watch over Camden streets, monitored from the police building downtown. A system called ShotSpotter pinpoints the sounds of gunshots to enable police to respond quickly.
Later, the visitors went on foot patrols with officers in North Camden.
Another batch of reporters from the same program is expected to visit the city Wednesday.